On August 15, Reds Nation stands at the intersection of desperation and dismissal. After losing to the Colorado Rockies and dropping now four of their last five games, all to teams beneath .500, the Reds have fallen back to beneath .500 for the first time since July 30.
The narrative quickly shifts from last-ditch optimism to forced apathy. For most fans, it's almost easier not to care about the remaining 40-plus games of this snake-bitten season than to invest any more effort into caring.
And while Rome is supposedly burning, as Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty writes after another Reds loss, the Reds still bewilderingly sit just four games out from the second National League wild-card slot and 6.5 behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers.
According to Cincinnati Enquirer beat writer C. Trent Rosecrans, Brandon Phillips is beginning a rehab assignment on August 15 with the Triple-A Louisville Bats. Furthermore, per the same article, Joey Votto may be two weeks away from resuming baseball activities.
But can the Reds remain in contention until their best players return? It won't be easy. With no obvious trade in sight, despite a lot of we-need-a-bat talk void of any real substance, the Reds have to consider making any move possible to generate more offense.
I feel like there is one move in particular that accomplishes this: Kristopher Negron for Zack Cozart at shortstop when Brandon Phillips finally returns.
Reds fans need to be aware of just how valuable Zack Cozart has been before they talk about replacing him. With a 2.7 dWAR, this man owns the No. 3 dWAR in all of baseball. That's incredible.
But now it's time to decide what the Reds need more right now—offense or defense?
Cozart has been incredibly useful in his capacity. But in a time when offense is at a premium, the Reds should consider making any move they can to address the void. Cozart's slash line of .228/.275/.303 is a major pressure point of the Reds lineup.
While his dWAR is one of baseball's best, his oWAR is nowhere close. At 0.2, Cozart is simply providing nothing from an offensive standpoint. At least nothing consistently.
Kristopher Negron, on the other hand, has demonstrated real promise, at least in a very small sample size. In just 65 plate appearances, Negron is slashing .246/.292/.459.
Obviously, this doesn't blow away Cozart's numbers (minus the slugging). But look at the power. Negron has three home runs in 65 plate appearances. Cozart has three home runs in 430 plate appearances.
Plus, consider runs created per game. Cozart's RC sits at 2.8. Negron's is 5.3.
Negron won't be able to replicate the glove of Cozart. But it's worth noting that he has 461 games in the minor leagues at shortstop. So there's no reason to believe he'll be lost at sea.
As for the limited sample size—while Negron's numbers don't demonstrate a propensity for prolonged success, it's also worth noting that his batting average and OBP have increased in now five consecutive years.
Isn't this a trajectory worth taking a gamble on?
Let's revisit the obvious: There realistically isn't any outside offensive help coming. And considering that's the biggest problem with the Reds at the moment, they have to consider every internal option they have to make up some of the production.
The exceptional pitching that the Reds do have will mitigate the damage of losing such a valuable glove at shortstop. Negron has nine minor league seasons at shortstop, with a .963 fielding percentage at the position.
In four seasons in the majors, Cozart boasts a .980 fielding percentage.
It's a difference, but you decide, Reds fans: Is this disparity in fielding percentages worthy of consideration above the obvious offensive upgrade that Negron could provide?
I'm not suggesting that Bryan Price should relegate Cozart to the bench—but might he still be able to help the team in a more Chris Heisey fashion as a late-game sub?
All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless noted otherwise.